Editorial: Voter's voice

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The approval of a site plan for the construction of a live fire training tower on Industrial Avenue in Craig means the project only needs approval from Craig City Council before construction can begin. The editorial board hopes council members realize approving the project effectively silences the voice of voters in Craig, who overwhelmingly voted no on a proposed training tower in 2002.

Editorial board members:

• Al Cashion

— Community representative

• Patt McCaffrey

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

The Craig planning and zoning department’s approval Monday night of a site plan for the construction of a live fire training tower on Industrial Avenue in Craig means the project has but one small hurdle left before ground can be broken: approval from Craig City Council.

And if Craig building inspector Dave Costa’s prediction is accurate, it sounds like council members already have the rubber stamp inked up.

But before council gives an official OK to the project, the editorial board urges its members to give serious thought to what they are signing off on: A project funded by tax payer dollars that the taxpayers of Moffat County didn’t approve.

Sure, taxpayers approved a mill levy increase that provided Craig Fire/Rescue with the funds in question, but it came with the promise that those funds would not be used for a training facility. They had to make that promise because in 2002 voters overwhelmingly said “no” to a proposed mill levy increase intended to pay for a training facility.

And try as they might, fire board officials haven’t been able to convince the editorial board of their claim that the training tower falls under the umbrella of “operating expenses.”

Don’t misunderstand, the editorial board isn’t criticizing the planning and zoning department’s decision. That board operates under guidelines directing it to look only at the project from a zoning perspective. And while a variance was granted — the height of the tower will be approximately three feet taller than the Craig’s 50-foot limit for that area — it wasn’t planning and zoning’s job to consider the project’s funding when it voted Monday night.

City council, however, is another story. Council members have a duty to represent the people of Craig when making decision like this and in the editorial board’s decision, they would fall short of that duty if they blindly signed off on this project, especially if council members involved with Craig Fire/Rescue — like fire board president Byron Willems and Don Jones, whose brother is a firefighter — are allowed to participate in a vote where obvious conflicts of interest exist.

Those of us who live on the Western Slope often feel like our voice isn’t heard when it comes to state and Federal matters. The editorial board hopes Craig City Council considers very carefully what approving this project does to the voices of local taxpayers, who haven’t been asked about this issue since 2002 when they said no.

Whatever personal opinions exist about the tower itself — and there are several amongst editorial board members alone — are not the issue. The issue is giving the taxpayers of Craig an opportunity to decide how to use their money — and it is their money.

City council members would be wise to remember that before voting.

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